Solomon dies and Israel is split into two nations – Israel and Judah: 1 Kings 11:41−43; 2 Chronicles 9:29−31; 1 Kings 12:1−20; 2 Chronicles 10:1−19; 1 Kings 12:21−24; 2 Chronicles 11:1−4; 1 Kings 12:25−33; 2 Chronicles 11:5−17
Rehoboam (Solomon’s son) lost the northern Kingdom of Israel, leaving it exposed for Jeroboam to return from Egypt and assume the throne.
One of Jeroboam’s first acts was to try to keep the Israelites in northern Israel, and discourage them from going near Jerusalem. So he made two golden calves and set them up as idols:
1 Kings 12:28-30So on the advice of his counselors, the king made two gold calves. He said to the people, ‘It is too much trouble for you to worship in Jerusalem. Look, Israel, these are the gods who brought you out of Egypt!’ … But this became a great sin, for the people worshiped the idols, traveling as far north as Dan to worship the one there.
The people would have had to have known what happened to their ancestors when they worshipped a golden calf during their flight from Egypt. It was touch and go more than once: it was only with Moses’ pleading that they survived to become a nation.
It’s hard to imagine a bigger insult now than to give the glory due to God to any idol let alone that particular idol.
To make matter ever worse for the new northern kingdom of Israel, Jeroboam banned any worship of the Lord, which emptied Israel of people who wanted to worship God:
2 Chronicles 11:14-15 The Levites even abandoned their pasturelands and property and moved to Judah and Jerusalem, because Jeroboam and his sons would not allow them to serve the Lord as priests. … From all the tribes of Israel, those who sincerely wanted to worship the Lord, the God of Israel, followed the Levites to Jerusalem, where they could offer sacrifices to the Lord, the God of their ancestors.
The result for Judah was:
2 Chronicles 11:17 This strengthened the kingdom of Judah, and for three years they supported Rehoboam son of Solomon, for during those years they faithfully followed in the footsteps of David and Solomon.